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"A meditative white wine" is how several panel members described the 2007 Zemmer Cortinie Bianco. Soft and succulent upon first impression, this wine opens beautifully with minimal aeration to reveal tremendous class and breed along with plenty of flavor. Wrapped in a pale yellow robe, the Zemmer Cortinie Bianco is an artful blend of the Alto Adige's finest white grape varietals: Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and Gewürztraminer. And like all of Zemmer's wines, the 2007 Cortinie Bianco possesses an enchanting bouquet; in this case, the scents of peaches and rich stone fruits mingle with spring flowers and a waft of light luxurious fruit that seems deftly tinged with lemon drops and the essence of tropical oils. Meanwhile, an adroit touch of oak adds a subtle creaminess to the wine and enhances its overall complexity. In fact, the Cortinie Bianco seems to have it all: a soft, appealing aroma, plenty of flavor, supreme balance, and style – the very attributes that make Italy's finest white wines the world's most appreciated and easy to understand. Simply put, the 2007 Cortinie Bianco is one eminently drinkable elixir that we found simply irresistible. If a wine could possess true sex appeal, the Cortinie Bianco would be considered a genuine femme fatale. Enjoy the Cortinie Bianco either moderately chilled (40° F) or at a more ambient temperature. We prefer to serve it cool rather than cold; much more of the flavor and nuance in the wine come through when the wine reaches 50º-55º F . . . but as you like it.
The 2007 Zemmer Cortinie Bianco is one of those light, lovely, crowd-pleasing wines that often are served first at an elegant dinner party, the type of wine you wish the host or hostess would continue to serve – instead of the fat ugly Chardonnay they slip in after you have had a couple of glasses of much better wine in the vain hope that you won't notice or, worse, you'll stop drinking. Indeed, the 2007 Cortinie Bianco provides ample pleasure as is, without a morsel of food. Nevertheless, the Cortinie Bianco pairs easily with most seafoods and salads and adds elegance and panache to a wide variety of light, well-prepared dishes. Some of our favorite pairings with this wine include grilled shrimp, served with a light Dijon mustard and dill sauce; real lump crab mixed with chive cream and served over a Parmesan tuile; oysters sautéed in butter, cream, and fresh herbs; grilled trout with almonds; and a grilled cider braised chicken breast served over a bed of mixed organic greens. Cortinie Bianco also pairs well with fruit and cheese to provide an exemplary finale to a special meal. But no matter how you choose to serve the Cortinie Bianco, we suggest you invite that special someone over to enjoy it with you.
Editor's Note: Peter Zemmer was recently named "Best European Winemaker" at one of Europe's leading wine competitions. Peter, named for his grandfather and the founder of the estate, drastically limits yields at his family's domaine in the Alto Adige and fashions wines of exquisite charm and distinction from a growing number of varietals.
In Cortina, amidst the alpine hills and valleys of the South Tyrol (Alto Adige), nestles the Zemmer family winery. Founded in 1928 by Peter Zemmer, this family-owned-and-run operation has recently emerged as one of the zone's leading producers of both white and red wines, thanks to the visionary leadership of Helmuth Zemmer and his talented winemaker son Peter, the firm's current guardians.
The hallmark of Zemmer's wines is always a pure, precise, highly focused aroma that defines the essence of the varietal or varietals from which they are made. In addition, the aroma of a Zemmer wine is merely the prelude to the rich flavors that lie within. Zemmer's wines are consistently gratifying libations that appeal to the purist taster; they are completely unmanipulated expressions of their cepage and terroir. In other words, no smoke or mirrors are employed here. The annual harvest comes only from Zemmer's own vineyards and those that are bound by tradition to the Zemmer property. White wines, most notably Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and a luxury blend labeled Cortinie Bianco, dominate this producer's outstanding portfolio, but Zemmer also fashions fine, full-bodied red wines that merit serious attention.
Alto Adige or Sud Tirol?
In Italian, Alto Adige refers to the high or upper reaches of the Adige, the stony, swift-flowing river that Ernest Hemingway immortalized in A Farewell to Arms. However, most of the world knows this stunning country as the Sud Tirol or the South Tyrol. The dual name illuminates this region's splintered history and highlights its continuing split personality. Presently, Alto Adige is officially an autonomous region of Italy, but the Alto Adige or South Tyrol remains primarily German speaking, which underscores the fact that for most of its tortured history this beautiful alpine land of lederhosen and loden caps was an integral part of Austria. In fact, it was not until after World War I that the South Tyrol was ceded begrudgingly to Italy.
In spite of or, perhaps, because of the South Tyrol's plurality, ethnic diversity, and historical factional violence, the present generation of winemakers in Alto Adige of both Austrian and Italian heritage have banded together in the common pursuit of happiness and prosperity. In doing so, the winemakers of the Alto Adige/ Sud Tirol have fashioned some of the highest standards for winemaking in all Italy. Consequently, more than 50 percent of the zone's wines are DOC designated, while a substantial portion of the area's non-DOC offerings constitute Alto Adige's most expensive and illustrious offerings (Zemmer Cortinie Bianco, for example) simply because DOC regulations do not yet provide for imaginative, luxury blends.
While it may be true that white wine is the calling card of Alto Adige and that many of Italy's finest white wines do indeed flow from its pretty hills and valleys, this industrious, forward-thinking region is also renowned for its production of light- to medium-bodied red wines of supreme bouquet, finesse, and style. So whether it be an outstanding Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, or Pinot Grigio, or one of Alto Adige's little know reds in the guise of Santa Maddalena, Teroldego, or even Lagrein, quality remains the region's unifying factor.
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